‘The paradox of being a mermaid: the lazier she looks, the harder the mermaid works. Antoinette smiled languorously and dazzled. Manatees brushed her; bluegills nibbled at her hair. But the water was a chilly seventy-four degrees, the current strong, the calibration of air in the lungs exact to regulate buoyancy or sinking. The tunnel the mermaids swam down to reach the theater was black and long and sometimes caught their hair and held them there by the scalp. She couldn’t see the audience but felt the weight of their eyes through the glass. She turned on the heat for the invisible watchers; she made them believe. But sometimes, as she grinned, she thought of sirens as she knew them: not this sappy little mermaid she was pretending to be but the one who gave up her tongue and song and tail and home to be immortal. The one who’d sing a ship full of men onto the rocks and watch, ferocious, while they fell lax into the deep.’
I read this last week, in Lauren Groff’s wonderful new novel Fates and Furies. I wondered if it really existed, this water park in Florida called Weeki Wachee where the mother of her main character makes a living in a mermaid show in the fifties. I looked it up online and there it was. Still running.
Then I found this footage from the early sixties in the archives of Florida, which related so strongly to a song I released earlier this year, I just had to bring them together. Tanned Legs was written after a visit to another water park. No mermaid show there, mainly slides in all shapes and sizes, though I did glimpse something undulating in mottled green from the corner of my eye.